Palestinian Territories - Ismail Haniyeh urged to lift ban on newspaper's distribution in Gaza Strip

    MONTREAL, Feb. 20 /CNW Telbec/ -

    Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard wrote today to
the Hamas government's Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, about a ban on the
daily Al-Ayyam in the Gaza Strip.

    HE Ismail Haniyeh
    Prime Minister of the Hamas Government
    Gaza Strip

    Dear Prime Minister,

    Reporters Without Borders would like to share with you its concern about
the significant deterioration in the situation of press freedom in the Gaza

    You have on several occasions expressed your government's desire to
guarantee a free and independent press. However, your pledge is contradicted
by the suspended sentences of six months in prison passed on 6 February on two
Al-Ayyam journalists on a charge of defamation in connection with a cartoon
that members of your party regarded as offensive.

    Those sentenced were the daily newspaper's editor, Akram Haniyeh, and his
cartoonist, Bahaa Al-Boukhari, while the newspaper itself has been banned from
distribution in the Gaza Strip. We urge you to have these sentences overturned
as they could make it even more difficult for journalists to work in the Gaza
Strip. We are worried by the fact that, according to our figures,
22 journalists have been arrested since June of last year, 14 have been
threatened in the course of their work, 14 news media have been ransacked and
three have been censored.

    We are writing to you about this situation, Mr. Prime Minister, because
we consider it to be critical for the future of the Palestinian press. Aside
from the fact that a cartoon should be regarded as a matter of free expression
and not an as an offence to you or your party, we believe that the differences
between Palestinians should not be allowed to restrict the work of

    We trust you will give this matter your careful consideration.

    Robert Ménard Secretary-General

For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)

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